Peace. Noun. According to Dictionary.com, “Cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissension.” Also the lyric to many a Christmas song.
I heard the bells on Christmas day, their old familiar carols play, And wild and sweet, the words repeat of peace on earth, good will to men.
It’s an old story, this telling of peace and love that rests over the world at Christmas. We’ve been singing it since the shepherds and angels on the first Noel, back when no one knew the words to Silent Night, the magic of Santa, the stunning, salvation-bringing life the tiny baby would live. And it’s a mind-blowing one. The God of the universe becomes a baby squalling in the Bethlehem night because he loves us so dang much. Wild and sweet, indeed. But after countless repetitions, the story is memorized, the miracle plasticized in nativity sets and masked in sparkly marketing. It’s hard to think of the manger, where God begins to dwell with us, with reverence and awe when the story is familiar and swept over by festivities and finals.
And in despair I bowed my head.”There is no peace on earth,” I said, “for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.”
This doubting, restless heart so easily forgets the assurance of God with us. It’s ironic that this week, the crackdown before finals, is the week of peace in the Advent calendar. This is the week that sees me frantic and worried, my brow furrowed and my mind churning over the party I have yet to plan and the paper I have yet to write. I can count on one hand the assignments I have left to turn in, but my focus is crawling, my textbooks weightier than usual. Weariness sweeps over everything. I feel alone in weakness, in worry.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”
But. Peace is not peppermint-spiced. It’s not found in jingle bells and twinkly lights. It’s not warm fuzzies at orchestra-swelling praise songs. It’s not even watery eyes at sweet, sentimental Christmas messages.
Peace, real peace, is knowing that the King is here, that Jesus promises to take carry my worry, that God is good even when sleep is lacking and motivation is missing. Peace is knowing that ultimately God and good win. Even in darkness more consuming than December night, God is still at work and has sent his Light to shatter the black.
Right now, I’m not feeling an abundance of peace. I am ignoring the textbooks sprawled next to me and yearning to be done. My efforts to find peace involve stress eating and Pinterest perusing. Wrong failing and right prevailing are not the first topics on my mind.
And that’s okay. God can take it. He doesn’t need my triumphant joy, my Christmas cheer, my attempts to manufacture some candlelight stillness in my soul. His peace is not dependent on my emotional stability. He has faced problems so much bigger than my end-of-semester doldrums, and his offer of peace still lingers, wrapped in grace and love.
Maybe, even right now in this season of the semester, I’ll be brave enough to believe and accept it.
Till, ringing singing, on its way, the world revolved from night to day, a voice, a chime, a chant sublime of peace on earth, good will to men!